Monday, November 30, 2009

Dealing With Resistance: The Constant Struggle - part #1

THEME: Fall 2009 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

FOCUS: Dealing With Resistance: The Constant Struggle - part #1

Monday morning: November 30, 2009

Dear friends,

Last week, I shared the following quote by Robert E. Quinn: “Excellence is a form of deviance. If you perform beyond the norms, you disrupt all the existing control systems. Those systems will then alter and begin to work to routinize your efforts. That is, the systems will adjust to try to make you normal.”

Right now, many people in many different organizations are feeling the pressure to be “normal.” Exploring new ideas and new ways of working outside the box are not always welcome during tumultuous times. People seek order and predictability when they are in a continued period of instability.

When we push change or excellence, we, at times, encounter resistance. Realizing that people do not resist change as much as loss of control, we come to understand that what people are resisting is the loss of identity, values and self-worth that comes when orderly and predictable systems and patterns of work are changed.

There are days when we as leaders get so wrapped up in our work that we forget that change is a process, not an event. Gene E. Hall and Shirley M. Hord in their book, Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes, Allyn & Bacon, 2005, note that there are significant differences between the development and the implementation of change. An organization does not change until the individuals within it change. Therefore, facilitating change needs to be a team effort.

Every week, I meet leaders and organizations that are not prepared for resistance. As I mentioned before, people don’t resist change. They resist the loss of control and/or identity, and the pain that comes with this loss. But too many times, when encountering resistance, we as leaders focus on attitude when in reality those we are working with may need new knowledge, skills, and support .

Recently, Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008, reported that the Saratoga Institute did research on poor interpersonal skills. After interviewing 19,700 exiting employees and their bosses, they discovered that 85% of bosses said that former employees left for more compensation and opportunity. On the other hand, 80% of the exiting employees said they left because of poor relationship, poor development and poor coaching from the boss. It is important that we as leaders recognize that resistance starts with the health of the relationship between a leader and a follower. Unhealthy relationships increase the potential for resistance.

Therefore, I encourage leaders to expect resistance. As Jeffery D. Ford and Laurie W. Ford, in their article, “Decoding Resistance to Change”, Harvard Business Review, April 2009, point out, “Resistance is, in fact, a form of feedback, often provided by people who know more about day-to-day operations than you do.” As they continue, “Dismissing the feedback deprives you of potentially valuable information, costs you goodwill, and jeopardizes important relationships.”

This week, I encourage you to discuss the subject of resistance and loss, plus practice receiving feedback.

Have a marvelous week,


Geery Howe, M.A.
Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in
Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change

Morning Star Associates
319 - 643 - 2257

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